The Cost of Prom: Ways to Save Money on a Prom Dress

save money on prom
As any family knows, the prom can be expensive. Although those going to the prom are spending less this year than last, according to a survey released by Visa, they’re still spending nearly $1000 for a single night out.

The average cost for going to the prom was $1,139 in 2013, but has dropped 14% to under $1,000 ($978) this year. The price includes the cost of the prom dress, tuxedo, limousine rental, tickets and dinner.

The cost of the prom varied quite a bit depending on the region, with high schoolers on the west coast spending the most money for their big night of the year. The survey found that each region paid the following for prom:

  • Those in the west paid $1,125 on average
  • Those in the northeast paid $1,104 on average
  • Those in the south paid $926 on average
  • Those in the midwest paid $835 on average

While this is what the average prom-goers are paying, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a number of ways that these costs can be significantly reduced without taking the fun out of the night. As with many things in life, a lot of the cost is to try and impress others rather than putting in place the things that are going to allow the kids to have a good time on their own.

For example, a limousine isn’t a necessity to have a great prom night, and not hiring one can cut out a major expense. Dinner also doesn’t need to be at an ultra expensive restaurant. A good alternative is having a backyard barbecue with a bunch of friends which can be a lot more relaxing and a lot more fun. One of the most expensive parts of the prom for many is the prom dress for the girls. Here are a few ways that these costs can be dramatically reduced:

Consignment Shop

If you have consignment shops in your area, they are a great place to look. The prom dresses will be high quality at greatly reduced prices over buying new. They will usually have a pretty good selection as well.


Most guys will end up renting their tuxedo for the night, and it can make a lot of sense for the girls to do the same with their dresses. Chances are that you won’t wear it again for another prom, and this may allow you to get a fancier dress than you otherwise could afford at a less expensive price.

Thrift Shops

It’s worthwhile checking you local thrift shop for prom dresses. Many carry a rather large selection of them which can be well over half the cost of buying a new prom dress.

Have an Exchange Party

Get your friends together with the prom dresses that have been worn in previous years and have an exchange party. This is a great way for the dresses to get used again since you won’t want to wear the same one as you did in previous years, and it won’t cost any additional money with the exchange.

Shop Closets

Much like the exchange party, be willing to shop the closets of an older sibling or friend. Many will have beautiful dresses from past years that they would be more than willing to lend you for the night.

Alter a Dress You Have

If you purchased a prom dress in years past, you probably did so because you liked it. If you still do and you’re creative, you can make the same dress look different by dying it a different color and changing the hem line.

Sample Dresses

Sample dresses are the floor display model of the dress that everyone sees when they are looking for the dress. Some stores have a special day when they sell their floor model designs at reduced prices over the regular gowns, but it never hurts to ask if the shop has floor models for sale when you walk in. You might be surprised and walk out with a great deal.

Get Help

The cost of the prom dress can be a financial hardship to many families, and there are a number of charities that have been set up to help those that can’t afford a prom dress on their own. Check out the following:

If you have old prom dresses that you are no longer going to wear, consider donating them to the above projects as well.

(Photo courtesy of Sean McGrath)

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2 Responses to The Cost of Prom: Ways to Save Money on a Prom Dress

  1. dave says:

    There are kids who seriously pay $1000 for their prom? This is why kids have no sense of finances when they graduate from high school and are on their own.

  2. kramer says:

    It costs a fortune. A little easier for the guys, but still very expensive.

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